The UNC Institute for the Environment (IE), in partnership with the North Carolina Alliance to Create Opportunity Through Education (OPT-ED), is engaged in a multi-pronged, five-year effort to increase substantially the participation of underrepresented minority (URM) students in geoscience research and education in North Carolina. The Increasing Diversity and Enhancing Academia (IDEA) partnership is expanding the existing NC OPT-ED network by adding a geoscience research focus and extending the program to Elizabeth City State University (ECSU), an Historically Black College and University (HBCU) in eastern North Carolina. The NSF-funded OPT-ED program is a formal alliance of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-CH), North Carolina State University (NCSU), and North Carolina Agricultural & Technical University (NC A&T) that encourages URM students to pursue doctorates and supports other education programming for URM students. The proposed project is using place-based approaches to engage minority students from eastern North Carolina in understanding and solving geoscience problems facing their region, with an emphasis on the linkages between watershed hydrology, coastal marine processes, land use change and developing climate change. The IDEA project objectives are to: implement hands-on and minds-on geosciences activities for URM high school students to encourage their education to the next level; recruit and prepare undergraduates to pursue MS and PhD degrees in the geosciences; and, provide high quality geosciences research experiences for undergraduate students in the summer and academic year. These goals are being achieved through a combination of project activities that include summer science enrichment programs for high school students; a Saturday pre-college academy for secondary school students; an alliance day for secondary and post-secondary students that provides professional development workshops; academic year and summer research experiences for undergraduates; and other professional development and networking events for undergraduate students. The project includes resources to support students financially, develops critical skills that help students be better prepared for pursuing advanced degrees, and provides significant mentoring by university faculty and administrators at the partner institutions.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Directorate for Geosciences (GEO)
Application #
Program Officer
Jill L. Karsten
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
University of North Carolina Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill
United States
Zip Code